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America’s secret wars

Go read the rest. Charlie Pierce:

Secret war is anathema to free government. Period. Now, you can argue that it’s necessary, that the world has changed, that dangers come upon us too quickly, that the length and breadth of the evil in the world has made the perils Madison described quaint and irrelevant. You can do all that and people will applaud you and elect you president. But you cannot make the argument that secret wars conducted by the Executive are consonant with constitutional government, because they are not, and they never will be, and because, sooner or later, you wind up lying about the rape and murder of nuns.

(Hell, you can’t really even argue that open warfare conducted by the Executive, even with fig-leaf legislation from a cowardly and compliant Congress, is consonant with constitutional government. The Founders would laugh at you.)

I bring all of this up because I just recently caught up with this piece in National Journal which describes how “comfortable” Barack Obama has become with waging his secret wars in Pakistan and in other places. Some of the quotes in the piece, especially from the people at the CIA, are mindbogglingly banal in their illustration of just how far from the Constitution our presidents have strayed, and how happy everyone is that they’ve done so….

One senior official inside the CIA is forthright about the issue, at least when speaking anonymously. “It’s a lot simpler and easier for a sniper to shoot or to use a Predator to launch a lawful attack than to detain and interrogate prisoners,” he says. “Once they’re dead, then Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International doesn’t bring a habeas [corpus] case for them. If we’re not going to hold them, we’re ‘pure.’ We may not have information or intelligence, but we do ensure that no one in the human-rights community is yelling and screaming at us.” 

Well, god forbid that should happen. It might ruin an entire afternoon.

And, no, this is not about killing Osama bin Laden. This is about conducting a general war overseas in an ad hoc fashion entirely from within the Executive branch. The constitutional distance between what President Obama is doing and “The Enterprise,” which was the Reagan administration’s term for the foolishness that ended in the Iran-Contra scandal, is not vast.

We can applaud the president’s “strong leadership” in this area. We can even re-elect him based on it. But it doesn’t have anything to do with what we were designed as a nation to do. We can fool ourselves that all of this is constitutional, but it’s not, and no hack White House lawyer can make it so. Secret wars are lies institutionalized and, sooner or later, we’re all praying for the repose of the souls of nuns murdered so long ago that hardly anyone remembers them.

Cranky

Turned down a all-expenses-paid trip to D.C. this week because I didn’t want to be away from home if I got another attack. No point to getting all those tests (and the radiation) all over again. All my friends are there, and here I am. Bummer!

UPDATE: Glad I didn’t go. Bad attack with vomiting – again.

I need a man to love

Janis:

The honey badger don’t care

This is some of the funniest shit ever:

Occupy Congress

Today they asked Darrell Issa for a jobs bill.

Denied

When you’re at the end of the road, food stamps are the only thing left. Most people don’t qualify for welfare, the unemployment extensions for 99ers are gone, and there are no jobs to be had. Many people will read this and shake their heads at what this desperate mother did. I look at it and think of all the politicians who didn’t lift a finger to help people like this:

(Reuters) – A woman in the border city of Laredo, Texas who was angry because she had been denied food stamps killed herself and shot and critically wounded her two children late on Monday, authorities said on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old woman entered the Texas Health and Human Services Commission office in downtown Laredo on Monday afternoon and demanded to speak to a supervisor, said investigator Joe Baeza of the Laredo Police Department.

The woman, whom he declined to identify, pulled out a handgun and started walking through the office, threatening several employees, he said.

“She had issues and felt that she had been let down by social services in general,” Baeza told Reuters on Tuesday. “She was making all sorts of outlandish claims.”

She took an office supervisor hostage in a room in the office, he said, and a SWAT team managed to evacuate the other three dozen people in the office and clear the area.

After two hours of negotiations, the woman allowed the male supervisor to go free, but she remained in the office with her two children, a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl.

“About 11:45 last night, she hung up the phone with negotiators, and a little bit later, negotiators heard three shots,” Baeza said on Tuesday. “What had happened was that she had shot each of her children once and herself once.”
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Sam Seder:

We all know that police departments across the country are becoming more and more militarized, as if expecting attacks from a domestic version of the Taliban. But the amount of hardware finding its way to cops is even greater than you might have thought, according to Business Insider. More here.

Occupy Congress

Occupy groups from across the country also showed up to talk to Congress members today. Many of them refused to talk to them and called the police instead. This is Occupy Kansas:


Watch live video from OccupyKC on Justin.tv

Nearly 3,000 protesters are staging sit-ins in congressional offices at the Capitol on Tuesday, demanding they be heard on the plight of the unemployed.

The protests, organized by activist groups including OurDC and Moveon.org, will target 99 lawmakers’ offices by the end of the day, according to event spokesman Mike Uehlein.

“These folks have traveled from across the country,” he told The Hill, noting that many of the protesters were unemployed. “They’re calling on their congressional leaders to take actions on the jobs crisis.”

Several dozen individuals targeted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office in the Russell Senate office building, refusing to leave until they meet with the lawmaker.
They “arrived this morning around 11:30 [a.m.]; they asked for a meeting with the Senator,” McConnell’s spokesman Robert Steurer wrote in an email.

“Since they did not have a meeting scheduled, we offered them a meeting with our legislative director and they declined,” he added. “This is the same group that was here in early November – and we offered them a meeting a couple times during that visit and they declined.”

New Coke?

David Dayen on the president’s populist rebranding in today’s speech:

For one of the first times ever, the President mentioned that two rounds of tax cuts passed by the Bush Administration in 2001 and 2003 created almost no jobs. He said that “Mortgage lenders … tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford” and that “irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight” on Wall Street “nearly destroyed our entire economy.” He recited the now-familiar economic statistics about inequality and how it corrupts, how the rich purchase politicians and have them do their bidding. He added stats about the creaking to a halt of upward mobility in this country.

I’m just not sure what the solutions expressed in the speech mean to provide. There’s a familiar focus on education, with the welcome line that “We shouldn’t be laying off good teachers right now – we should be hiring them.” There’s a focus on science and research and development, which makes sense. There’s a very good line about how building an economy on high-tech manufacturing rather than an outsized financial industry will attract the best and brightest to productive work, something I think needs to be stressed.

But then there’s this brag on how we have to live within our means and prioritize our deficit, the wrong message in a fragile economy when you can borrow at a negative interest rate. The first substantive plan in the speech is to cut the payroll tax, an anti-contractionary measure but not necessary the stuff around which a New Deal is created. Obama does support returning progressivity to the tax code, in the form of returning the high-end tax rates to the Clinton years. But that stops short of transformation.
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